Thursday, January 8

Lollipops & Crisps

AT ALL TIMES I am consumed by the desire for things to return to how they were; I want us to go back in time; that to me was Glorious Normal and I want nothing more than it.
Throughout my life I have scarpered from the opportunity of returning to an old school or the town where I grew up or the useless corridors of my university, so attacked by wretchedness am I that even the thought of it causes me to sweat underneath my collar. If you wrapped me in your car and drove me through that tiny village I grew up in – from two till fourteen – I would shiver and curse your name! I cannot imagine it.
But us; but to regress back to that state when we were good and things had not fallen apart; when we would drink beer in the summer sun on slats of wood and her white thighs glowed at me and we went home and we fucked and there was nothing like it and we cooked dinner that smelled good everywhere and we giggled from each other and the sun came through the window as it set – now that memory rocks me to the bones and it is gone.
I feel so dastardly that I cannot sleep. Now I am drinking and it is not time for bed, but time for solitary writing. I feel so dastardly that I cannot sleep, but lie there next to her sleeping body and I weep and I shake on the mattress for her not to stir but the cats to prick their ears at me. They clamber on my chest and I stroke them – the female cat with her eyes all round and perfect animal flash in the darkness – and sob and my head is aching with thoughts that I cannot shake because at all times I am consumed by the desire for things to return to how they were.
I am sat with my father in a bar. We work in the same industry – building – but seldom see each other and this is the first occasion we are on the same project. I felt peculiar when he shook my hand in the meeting. I wished to kiss him like we kissed when I was a child (his silhouette against the faint curtain and tucking me in—‘Sweet dreams!’ and then vanishing into the furnace of the hallway lamps). But I shook his hand most politely. After the meeting I rushed to the toilet and sat there because of the sickness in my stomach. He tried to call me, to invite me for a drink. I met him in the bar and he was sat alone and he asked me how I was, not the pale gesture of usual manly enquiry but real—‘How are you?’
Although, against the bar and the life I have made over twenty-nine years—‘I’m all right.’
O, to take back that lie!
It is in the events of new year’s eve that Her gradual unloving of me becomes clear; bursting forth from those small moments recalled, clear in the mind’s eye, now delicate photographs of when I realised She no longer loves me . . .
Moments recalled in the office, in the soggy London streets where nothing is graceful and the rain falls in accordance with the weather-lady’s lines.
The day when the finance manager’s understudy requests our expenses sheet, I emptied my wallet of all the slips of paper I have accrued over whatever period of time you care to mention. They are crumpled before me on my desk and there are men gathered round me, talking. A thin, pale green sheet of paper falls out that I hurriedly pick up and hold in my hand, safe from their eyes. It is where she lay her lipstick her one time after she had visited, in the early days. She left notes for me around my flat – before it was our flat familiarity – and I cherished them, smiling, back from my stinking occupation. ‘When you get home from work, just imagine I am here . . . or here . . . or here.’ The one with the full-stop had her lipstick on. I placed it above the bed and then when I moved into my wallet. Why should it fall out of my wallet on this particular day when I am so wearied by the disintegration of our love? No-one saw it. If only I could tear it up and eat it, that lipstick, and all of it, and take all of it into my bloodstream and sing a dance and be okay with life.
At home but sad and willing – willing above all else, as in love as ever! – I lean my arms around her seated figure and kiss her over and over – the neck, the ear, the cheek, the hair – and I see that she is frowning, not smiling, and her mind is thinking up something that I shall find heartbreaking enough to stop me when I stand. I see that frown and it is all I see. I linger to show that I am unafraid but then I back away. This, the gradual deterioration of love that I am only just seeing with my feeble eyes. And then I let go of her and stand up, her face unchanging, her eyes not following me as I sit down and top up my wine glass. I know that she is out of love with me, and that is that. One cannot help it in particular, but live with it as best as one can.

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